Doing Us Wrong: The Independence Alliance

Shane Ross and John Halligan represent everything that’s wrong with the Irish multi-seat constituency system. 

Halligan got elected mostly on a local hospital issue. Numerous medical reviews clearly stated that maintaining or expanding a cardiac unit at Waterford University Hospital was unsafe due to lack of demand and, thus, development of local expertise. Despite this, it remains the primary plank of Halligan’s continued support of the Government. National politicians being lead by local issues. 

In a recent interview with The Irish Times, he was quoted as saying in reference to his position in Government:

“When he knew they were all going to be killed, King Leonidas went to them and whispered in their ears: ‘If we have to die, from them take everything and give them nothing.’ That is my motto, and it might come to that,” Mr Halligan said.

A dire reflection on the maturity and commitment to Government of the Independent Alliance. 

As an aside: the quote is attributed to King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae. The only source of this quote I can find is from the film enactment of that battle called 300. Please correct me if my admittedly scant search was too shallow.

Another Alliance member – pseudo-leader in fact – is Shane Ross, my local constituency TD. Unlike Halligan, Ross was elected first in our Dublin Rathdown three-seater. He’s a man who on the national stage has spoken out against cronyism and tribal politics.

He’s main local issue is the closure of our local Garda station. At least one morning a week he could be found standing on the traffic island outside it with a banner to have it reopened. Local grandstanding. On the same issue, a local group invited local politicians to speak on the subject as the election approached. The motto: No Station, No Vote. To what should be Ross’s eternal shame, there he was on a trailer promising its re-opening. A suspected guarantee on his party, the independent Alliance, entering Government. As of writing, it remains closed but it’s early days in this Government.

Don’t get me wrong – many politicians get elected based on local issues. But they’re upfront about it – like Halligan. But, from watching Ross at work, it seems like he tries to cultivate one image for the national media and a different image locally. That’s what annoys me more than anything else.

Shane Ross comes to mind today as he made a very misjudged boast about how, as Minister for Transport, he’s finally taken the bus:

This led to some Twitter hilarity including the gem of an image at the top of this post.

This is a post in the series Daily January 2016 – generally rushed and unedited.

EU Data Retention Directive Declared Invalid

The Court of Justice of the European Union today declared the Data Retention Directive invalid in a joint case brought by Digital Rights Ireland and an Austrian group. This is a great win by privacy advocates against a law that was over reaching, uncontained and unsafe. The courts own press release is a short three page read but some of the key elements include (all emphasis theirs):

  • the data “may provide very precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data are retained, such as the habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other movements, activities carried out, social relationships and the social environments frequented”;
  • the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data
  • “the directive covers, in a generalised manner, all individuals, all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any differentiation, limitation or exception being made in the light of the objective of fighting against serious crime”
  • “the directive fails to lay down any objective criterion which would ensure that the competent national authorities have access to the data and can use them only for the purposes of prevention, detection or criminal prosecutions concerning offences that … may be considered to be sufficiently serious to justify such an interference” and “the directive does not lay down substantive and procedural conditions under which the competent national authorities may have access to the data and subsequently use them”
  • “the directive does not provide for sufficient safeguards to ensure effective protection of the data against the risk of abuse and against any unlawful access and use of the data.”
  • and, shockingly (if none of the above was shocking enought), “the directive does not require that the data be retained within the EU“.

This is indeed a good day for digital rights, privacy rights and common sense. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the volunteers at Digital Rights Ireland.

What Kind of House Does a Solicitor Need? Or a Consultant?

Official Ireland with its head up its own ass – par for the course really.

On RTE Drivetime last night, Jim Stafford, an insolvency practitioner said in answer to a listener question:

Well, under the legislation the [Personal Insolvency Practitioner] is to try and keep the family in their family home if at all possible. The PIP will have to assess the existing mortgage on the family home, if it’s a modest house, if it’s a trophy house.

In practice, the PIP will also have to assess the type of house that might be needed for a professional person such as a solicitor, accountant or a hospital consultant as opposed to a house that’s needed by someone who is in the PAYE sector for example, so that, as a PIP, I would be making a very strong case, for example, that a solicitor should have a bigger house that accords with his professional status in society so that his neighbours and clients can see that, yes, this person is a good solicitor who’s is living in a good house etc. etc.

Don’t believe me? Listen here from about 6:35 in.

It was incredulous. I wrote the below comments on it (including the update) just a short while ago, but, as I typed, Jim posted an apology (copied below) on Friel Stafford‘s website:

I would like to acknowledge and sincerely apologise for the hurt and distress that my comments to RTE have undoubtedly caused.

Simply it was not my intention to offend.

In particular, it was not my intention to create a distinction between so called professional classes and PAYE workers nor appear to further the causes of a particular debtor type.

I believe that every person has a passionate concern to retain their family home.

I fully appreciate the distress that financial difficulties cause any one, no matter what their financial circumstances may be.

I fully and unreservedly apologise for my comments.

I’ve left my original comments below also. Why? Primarily because I’m not sure I fully accept or believe the apology. He may very well have being acting as a PIP should – in full defense of his clients to get the best possible outcome. Or he may actually believe what he said. Or he may truly have misrepresented himself in the glare of a live radio studio.

Either way, as you can hear in the interview, when pushed he reinforced those original remarks. I don’t want to dance on Jim’s misfortune here, but it is still a great example of a segment of Irish society.

Charlie Weston of the Irish Independent also writes The message is clear: plebs need not apply for service.

Are these so called professionals more entitled to a large home that they can no longer afford than someone in the PAYE sector?

Is this just another example of the kind of shite that goes on far too often in this country? One self-appointed professional looking out for those that he considers his peers? If so, it’ll be at the (literal) cost of the tax paid by those in the PAYE sector.

Official Ireland with its head up its own ass – par for the course really.

This has subsequently been covered in a number of media outlets:

In the latter article, Mr Stafford admitted to being clumsy with his choice of words but said it was “impossible to talk about all of the complexities of personal bankruptcy in a 10 minute radio interview”.

It should be noted however, in the radio interview, he was pressed by the interviewer, Mary Wilson, on his comments and he said “Absolutely. The same as for hospital consultants, people like that… Despite the fact that he’s insolvent, because remember, if we want the solicitor to continue to earn money or the accountant or the hospital consultant it’s important that he has his tools of trade for example.” 

It’s pretty hard to misinterpret those sentiments.

Atheist Ireland Losing the Plot

I read an article in yesterday’s Irish times about Eamon Gilmore getting legal advise on swearing a religious oath at the up coming Council of State meeting. The article quoted a press release from Atheist Ireland:

Atheist Ireland has today written to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, to remind him that next Monday, as a member of the Council of State, he will become the first Irish person to be asked to swear a Constitutional oath in the presence of a god that he is publicly on record as not believing in. It is an oath that a conscientious agnostic cannot honestly make.

Whatever he does will create a precedent. Either he will be seen as a politician of principle who will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience in Irish politics, or else he will perpetuate the idea that swearing an oath means nothing in Ireland as you can do it with a metaphorical wink, and nobody really cares.

This kind of drivel pisses me off. It appears Eamon Gilmore will handle this as I would and as most right thinking people would – swear the oath and get on with the business at hand. The oath is contained in article 31.4 of the Irish Constitution and reads:

Every member of the Council of State shall at the first meeting thereof which he attends as a member take and subscribe a declaration in the following form:

“In the presence of Almighty God I,          , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.”

It is, quite simply, a matter of law and a constitutional requirement that Gilmore will rightly perform without issue. The only way to change it is through a referendum and we have much bigger fish to fry in the country than holding a referendum on the wording of an oath.

Gilmore – like I and others – who have sworn oaths and made pledges of a non-secular nature, can separate the religion from the oath. This is how conscientious agnostics make oaths – our word is our bond. After all, an atheist has no deity to swear to or swear in the presence of.

The notion that by refusing to swear this oath, Gilmore will literally go down in the history books of Irish Constitutional law on the issue of freedom of belief and conscience is laughable and ridiculous. By refusing to swear the oath, both believers in Christ and agnostics will simply consider him a fool. A fool making a mountain of a molehill.

Atheist Ireland has lost the plot here – and all I know is what little I knew of them before the Irish Times published the ridiculous article, I only want to know less of them now.

In Case You Were Wondering… NEVER Buy a Barracuda Device

See: http://archives.neohapsis.com/archives/fulldisclosure/2013-01/0221.html

Critical SSH Backdoor in multiple Barracuda Networks Products

OMFG.

Oh, also: http://archives.neohapsis.com/archives/fulldisclosure/2013-01/0222.html

Authentication bypass in Barracuda SSL VPN

Apple OS X as an NFS Server (with Linux Clients)

For a customer, I had to set up a Linux-based virtualised environment on a MacBook Pro using VirtualBox. This environment included making a couple of 8TB external hard drives available under NFS to the Linux hosts.

In all fairness, what better use can one put OS X to than to virtualise Linux?!?  Just kidding fanboys… well, sort of 😉

Let’s begin with a quick description of the environment:

  • A MacBook Pro (MBP) with OS X 10.8.2
  • VirtualBox with it’s own network (MBP: 192.168.56.1/24) for NFS as well as bridged adapters for general Internet access;
  • Multiple external HDDs – for simplicity, let’s just do one here which is mounted under /Volumes/DATA-1.

We want to export the DATA-1 volume to the Linux clients. That bit’s actually not too hard (see below), the main issue is we needed to match what on Linux is call no_root_squash – i.e. so the root user on the Linux clients would have root access to the NFS shares. That bit was harder.

I’ll assume root access / sudo use in the following commands.

To configure NFS, we edit / create /etc/exports (e.g. nano /etc/exports) such as:

In other words:

  • export /Volumes/DATA-1
  • map the clients root user to local root user and the clients root group to local group wheel (gid = 0)
  • allow the export to be accessed by any host on the private VirtualBox network.

With that entry, NFS can be enabled at boot and started via:

On a Linux client, this can then be mounted at boot with an /etc/fstab entry:

The problem was that no matter what variation of options I used, I could not get root access from the Linux clients.

The answer came by chance when I glanced an odd mount option on the external HDD:

noowners? What pray-tell is this? The internet provided some insight:

In Leopard, due to an unfortunate design decision by Apple, “admin” authentication is now required to make this change (no noowners) and non-admin users are no longer able to use “Get Info” to change this setting, even on devices they own and have mounted themselves.

An unfortunate design decision indeed. The temporary solutions is to execute:

Thereafter, I now have root access / effective UID from the Linux clients. This of course needs to be entered each time – if someone has a more permanent solution, I’m all ears (see below for a cron script I have implemented for this).

Just as an aside, we have a lot of NFS activity which required some tuning. First, additional NFS threads by adding nfs.server.nfsd_threads=16 to /etc/nfs.conf (execute nfsd restart after that). I’ve also added the following line to /etc/rc.local:

Cron Script for Automatically Removing noowners

As mentioned above, removing this mount option every time you connect these HDDs is damn annoying at best and error prone at worst. I have a script for this now which I locate in /var/root/bin/mount-check.sh which is:

This is then executed via a new line in /etc/crontab:

 

Should We Expect Any Different?

As I reflect on the performance of the Government over the past few months, I feel awash with disappointment. A foreigner reading the newspapers with party and names blacked out would hardly know the Government has changed.

The latest failures of Ministers such as Phil Hogan (what of the seven children he wished to condemn to the halting site?) and James Reilly (pulling such an obvious stroke, blatantly lying about it and then incompetently covering it up) are depressing and maddening.

But what is even worse is the Government backbenchers. I’ve watched politician after politician from the Government parties asked about these failures of character and every one of them have uttered some mealy-mouthed claptrap nonsense to weasel around the question rather than just calling a spade a spade. All too interested in keeping their nose clean to enrich themselves with some committee or future ministerial position rather than being a good, decent honest politician loyal to the people who elected them in the first place.

Should we have expected anything different? Maybe not. But we changed the Government to promises of a better way. Maybe we shouldn’t expect it, but we sure as hell should demand it.


Extended Version

The country as a whole rejoiced at the last general election when Fiannia Fáil were returned to the wilderness of opposition. After fifteen years in Government, their TDs and Ministers had become all too used to the trappings of power. And in the last decade they presided over a boom and budget after budget that dropped the country into its worst ever depression. All the while lining their own pockets.

We looked at a new Fine Gael / Labour coalition with much hope and optimism. But we weren’t and aren’t idiots – we didn’t expect them to change the country overnight. We all know that we’re in for a long hard slog. We did however expect them to be  different from the cronies that went before them. We expected that in a time of great depression, we could look at a new Government that would forgo the trappings of power, leave Parish pump politics to the local councilors – we expected a group of people who would put the common good of the Country as a whole first.

As I reflect on the performance of the Government over the past few months, I feel awash with disappointment. A foreigner reading the newspapers with party and names blacked out would hardly know the Government has changed. Two recent key examples stand out more than others:

  • Phil Hogan: Put aside the complete blunder that he made of the household charge and continues to make with the septic tank registrations; just this week we learned that he assured objectors that a Traveller family would not receive a house they were in line to be allocated and intervened with the local council to try and fulfill this promise. Never mind that his Ministerial office includes responsibility for housing and community – what of the seven children that would have been condemned to the halting site had he been successful? What of the children, Big Phil? So much for Frances Fitzgerald’s promises of “children first” with this Government.
  • James Reilly: I had high hopes and was willing to give Reilly a lot of latitude to try and sort out the mess of the HSE and the health system. But then he pulls one of the most obvious political Parish pump strokes yet and jumps a town in his constituency about 100 places up a list to get a primary care centre. 100 places! He denies it’s a stroke, takes a week to come up with some feeble excuse which is then discredited by a three month old FOI by the Irish Times. Pulling strokes, blatantly lying about it and then incompetently covering it up. His tenure is of course littered with disasters, this just being the latest of many.

Neither of these men deserve a place in cabinet – if even Dáil Eireann. But Enda Kenny owes them both dearly for the part they played in the pathetic coup attempt by other incompetents two years ago. More old fashioned clique politics – who cares if someone is completely ill-suited to Ministerial position; just as long as they have played ball and have served their time.

While the above angers me deeply, what is even worse is the Government backbenchers. I’ve watched politician after politician from the Government parties asked about James Reilly’s stroke-pulling and every one of them have uttered some mealy-mouthed claptrap nonsense to weasel around the question rather than just calling a spade a spade. All too interested in keeping their nose clean to enrich themselves with some committee or future ministerial position rather than being a good, decent honest politician loyal to the people who elected them in the first place.

Should we have expected anything different? Maybe not. But we changed the Government to promises of a better way. Maybe we shouldn’t expect it, but we sure as hell should demand it.